La Crosse Schools long-range facility planning
LA CROSSE, Wis., (April 25, 2022) – Would you build a new, modern, state-of-the-art high school in the City of La Crosse for the cost of three cups of coffee?
The School District of La Crosse wants to hear community voices, interests, and concerns about a consolidated high school. La Crosse residents are asked to please check their mailboxes during the week of May 1 for a copy of the latest La Crosse Schools facility survey. Residents will be asked if the School District of La Crosse should build one new consolidated high school at the Trane Technologies office building site on Pammel Creek Road for the cost of $194.7 million. This would have an impact on the tax mill rate of $0.08 or $8 for every $100,000 of property value.
The School District of La Crosse faces significant challenges due to declining enrollment and aging buildings. The district needs to right-size facilities to match projected enrollment, but can also invest in students and the community at the same time. Fewer buildings do not mean fewer opportunities for students. What is proposed will enhance and advance the school district for decades to come.
“Our greatest facility need is at the secondary level,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Aaron Engel. “Our middle school buildings are all over 80 years old and at the end of their life cycle. By building one new high school, high school students will have access to state-of-the-art facilities that will improve our community for generations. Middle school students will immediately have an upgrade in facilities by moving into high school buildings that are 30 to 40 years newer than the existing middle school buildings.”
The district’s building footprint will be vastly reduced by moving from five secondary buildings to three. This will eliminate the $18.5 million of upcoming maintenance liabilities in the three existing middle schools.
“With more students and staff in one place, more educational opportunities will be available to students,” said Engel. “Students will have access to more advanced placement, dual enrollment, transcripted, and elective classes that do not currently run due to limited enrollments in each building. Additionally, extracurricular activities that do not have enough interest at each school will be able to be supported with more students in one building.”
Operational efficiencies are expected to save the school district an estimated $4.5 million annually through consolidation of operations, equipment, and staff. The new high school will be more energy-efficient and reduce utility costs allowing more resources to be allocated to students.
One of the greatest challenges in proposing the concept of one high school for La Crosse is finding the right location. District administration searched for a centrally located site that was at least 40 acres in size. All district-owned property was initially considered. However, no district sites are large enough to support one consolidated high school.
District administration then met with City of La Crosse officials and private landowners to explore 11 separate options and determined the best site is the Trane Technologies office building site on Pammel Creek Road. No land has been purchased but the district has secured the right to acquire the parcel if voters support a referendum.
Building a high school at the Trane location would take advantage of the existing building to help lower construction costs. Voters would need to approve a $194.7 million referendum to pay for this middle and high school plan.
Due to sound long-range fiscal management, district debt about to be paid off from previous referendums, and current low-interest rates, this project can be accomplished with an $0.08 increase in the tax mill rate. In other words, voter approval of the proposed plan would increase school property taxes by $8 for every $100,000 of property value.
“This idea is a big one, but now is the time for big ideas to address our challenges and take advantage of our opportunities to invest in our students, invest in our facilities, and invest in our community,” said Engel. “We look forward to the community’s feedback on the upcoming survey.”
The public is invited to learn more about the district’s long-range facility plan during a series of community informational sessions. These sessions will be held on April 27 and May 3 from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. and hosted at Lincoln Middle School in La Crosse.
For more information on our long-range facility planning work done so far, please visit www.lacrosseschools.org.